The Histories by Herodotus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
We are all too familiar with the word ‘History.’ Still, we are seldom comprehensive of its original meaning, making its luster dull with the banality of academic subject we commonly associate. History in its Ionic Greek epistemological root means ‘research, investigation,’ a term nurtured by Father of History Herodotus. An inquisitive travel journalist, a tireless peripatetic lecturer, Herodotus is such an excellent raconteur of the ancient worlds that his engaging narratives of The Histories collapse millenniums between his writing and our reading them. The collective history of ancient people is woven into a wondrous tapestry of collective humankind in multiple strands.
Herodotus uses parataxis, which combines individual storytelling narrative account with associative thinking. It emphasizes the interconnection between ordinary personal lives and the concatenation of events interwoven to humankind’s collective history. Using ‘a-b-a’ strategy with numerous subjects interlocking the thematic of human history, Herodotus does not dictate his historian’s perspective over readers’ views and encourage autonomous understanding of events and causalities universalities of human tendencies in a democratic way. Herodotus is an objective commentator of human dramas in war, cultural customs, artifices, and artificers broadcast in a textual documentary record still appealing to posterity.
Despite the criticism from Plutarch and Thucydides, who regarded Herodotus as something of a lighthearted reporter of a modern-day travel magazine, Herodotus’s innovative narrative style became a model for latter-day European explorers struggling to describe discoveries of terra incognita to their peoples at home. Take Marco Polo of the Silk Roads, Christopher Columbus’s New World, Magellan’s Voyage to the Far East, etc. The European descendants found vivacious inspirations in entertaining storytelling from Herodotus’s Histories that would attract general readers flocking to the books about undreamed shores and unpathed lands populous with exotic natives in wonderment.
Herodotus is a polycentric historian who moves among different peoples in different landscapes without prejudice but with an intelligent passion for learning about them. He believed that the foundation of historical events, such as wars and political insurgencies, as part of humankind’s natural order, say, what comes around goes around, injustice giving rise to retribution passing down from generation to generation. Herodotus lets readers reflect on the past and subject its values to an outside standard of rational evaluations. In short, reading The Histories is like viewing a colossal road map, full of routes, roads, thoroughfares, rest areas, mountains, seas, cities, towns, etc., linked together through Interstate Highways. Histories is a textual equivalent of an ancient road map showing who lived where and what and why they did in a mixture of literary favor and historical objectiveness. No wonder Herodotus Still Rocks.
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‘The Histories’, by Herodotus – review
The Histories by Herodotus